Farmers Make the Government Blink: A Historical Moment

Defying odds and expectations, brickbats and apathy, and even the death of over 700 of their comrades, the farmers of North India have done the near unprecedented – make the Modi government go back on its word. Since the time the present government came into power, little has been rolled back or reversed despite mass agitations and protests from minorities, women, workers and other citizen groups. But now, that unbroken juggernaut of one way traffic has been halted – even if temporarily. There are questions – what will the modality of repeal, what about the other key demands, such as those related to MSP, on which the government is silent, and so on. There is no trust in the Modi government’s intention or belief in his goodwill or lack thereof. It has been a long, hard year. The bitter cold, the horrific images of tractors running over fragile old men, immense police violence, media allegations (including the deliberate mixing up of an old woman protestor with Bilkis Bano of Shaheen Bagh) – nothing has been forgotten. But for now, the sweetness of victory lingers.

Women are the backbone of India’s agriculture industry. They have also been the backbone of almost all resistance movements in recent history, and the longer past. Young women, old women, grandmothers, children – irrespective of age and the generations that divide them, women have staked claim to the questions of human rights, citizenship, gender justice, labour rights, and other questions that society does not see or deliberately obscures. Aura spoke to a few women activists on the ground for their immediate reactions:

Nodeep Kaur
Activist

Adv Tanya Tabassum
Social Activist

On the need for intersecting movements:

“The long running farmers’ protest has forced the Modi government to roll back the three laws. People have fought for their rights. The same citizens of India will snatch back their other lost rights that were taken from them. People are struggling on many fronts – Labour Code, New Education Policy, privatization, CAA-NRC-NPR – there is a need for such struggles against all such laws. Only an uncompromising fight of the people paves the way to victory. There is a lot of struggle left to carry out.”

Nodeep Kaur,

Activist

On the reaction to the news:

“Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are celebrating the news, raising flags of victory and distributing sweets. I have spoken to many of farmers at Tikri border, they say the fight is not over. They say, “We have no faith in a verbal promise. Unless we see it in writing that the laws have actually been repealed, we will stay here.”

Adv Tanya Tabassum,

Social Activist

On the negative role of the media:

‘Media organisations of the present government’, is a constant refrain in conversations with the farmers and their slogans. As the protest grew, it became obvious that there was a gap between the reality of the farmers’ problems and demands, and the narrative being constructed by the national media, especially TV channels. But social media platforms have also played a huge role in the movement through the power of hashtags.

Adv Tanya Tabassum,

Social Activist

Jagmati Sangwan
Activist
Navkiran Natt
Activist

On the demand of MSP:

“Announcement of repeal is important, we welcome it. But the issue of MSP is also equally important. Because the negative impact of laws was to come with their implementation, farmers are already committing suicide. That means they are not getting enough returns of their produce. So in such a situation they can’t continue with farming, which is a deficit ridden profession. It will negatively affect our food security.”
Jagmati Sangwan

Activist

On what the movement means to the people:
“It’s a historical movement. It will have positive impact, economically and socially across the world.”
Jagmati Sangwan

Activist

On MSP and agrarian distress:

“We are glad that PM Modi announced to repeal the three farm laws in the coming session of Parliament but want to emphasize that it’s not a gift but a result of a hard-fought struggle by the farmers and not to forget nearly 675 farmers got martyred during this struggle. The people of this country lost faith in their government, so the farmers won’t go back until this government does not take back the laws officially. And more importantly, the demand for MSP is still pending. As long as MSP is not made a legal right for farmers, there will be no end to agrarian distress.”
Navkiran Natt

Activist

On the BJP’s modus operandi:
“This is not the first time that the BJP government and its IT cell tried to defame any people’s movement. This is BJP’s modus operandi and the mainstream Indian media parrots the government’s line in vilifying the protests and protestors. But the farmers’ movement has dealt strongly and peacefully with such problems and setbacks”
Navkiran Natt

Activist

On privatization and an organized response:

“The current farmers’ movement won one of the major victories of the recent political history of India where people resisted the government and brought back policy level changes. While the movement has significantly raised the level of social and political consciousness of the people, it has also become a reckoning force of resistance against the wholesale loot and privatization of national assets by the Modi regime. The movement that started in Punjab and Haryana not only brought together farmer organisations from all over the country but also coalesced trade unions of small shopkeepers, students, youth and women’s organizations into a united front.”

Navkiran Natt

Socialist

The revival of the farmers’ movement has been a breath of fresh air and a very major lesson for the rest of the country. To put everything on the line, away from home and family, in face of a stubborn and unheeding government and the slander of the mainstream media – and to win – is an extraordinary achievement. No amount of electoral calculations or cynical analysis can take away from the simple fact that this is not a negotiated agreement or compromise but a victory directly wrested from the hands of the powerful. The farm laws have brought the question of farmers’ rights and demands back into the limelight and into the houses of the elite class which consumes the food produced but know little about the lives of the producers.

Reports over the past year have shown that many of the women in the protests – such as 70 year old Malan Kaur, who never went to school but listened to recorded videos to learn about the laws, or Nodeep Kaur herself, who was in jail for two months – have unshakeable will and a thirst to do something for their community beyond the ordinary. Statistics show that nearly 75% of full time workers on Indian farms are women, and that they work double – 3300 hours almost – than that of their male counterparts (1860 hours) in a given crop season. This is their victory too, and that of their existence.

1 Comment

  1. Sania Shamim

    Feeling more energetic to read this that they are agitating peacefully still ,Salute to unshakeable protesters and their preservrance like a nail, as well the women who are uneducated but full of courageous.

    Reply

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